April 9, 2021

Catholics from across the archdiocese joyfully return to chrism Mass during Holy Week

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson processes on March 30, Tuesday of Holy Week, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson processes on March 30, Tuesday of Holy Week, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

“What a difference a year makes.”

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson happily shared that thought at the start of the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass celebrated on March 30, Tuesday of Holy Week, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

During Holy Week in 2020, churches throughout central and southern Indiana and around the world were shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As a result, the archdiocesan chrism Mass was postponed until June 29. Those taking part in the liturgy were confined to priests serving in the archdiocese, parish life coordinators and a small representation of deacons, religious and lay faithful.

This year, the congregation was still limited in size due to the ongoing pandemic. But it was larger than the chrism Mass celebrated nine months previously. And lay Catholics from across the archdiocese could take part in it.

(Related: See a photo gallery from the Mass | Watch the Mass)

“Even with masks on, you look and sound wonderful,” Archbishop Thompson said in his opening remarks. “It’s great to be with you. It’s a wonderful day to have the chrism Mass.”

The chrism Mass features the blessing of oils used in several sacraments and in the dedication of churches and altars. Priests also renew their ordination promises during the liturgy.

Jeanie Leising, a member of St. Mary Parish in Rushville, has attended several chrism Masses in the past with her husband Mark and was glad to be able to attend this year.

“It’s a real blessing and relief to be able to come back, to have it in Holy Week and to really just do what our Church does,” Jeanie said. “It deepens my faith.”

Franciscan Sister Martha Ann Rich, who ministers at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, was grateful to attend the Mass. The hospital where she serves continues to care for those suffering from COVID-19, as it has done since the start of the pandemic.

“As I’m here, I’m thinking of all the individuals who are not able to come, who are suffering in their own way,” Sister Martha Ann said. “Hopefully, I’m representing them.”

More than 90 priests serving across central and southern Indiana also took part in the chrism Mass.

“The [priestly] fraternity is good,” said Father Christopher Wadelton, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “It’s good to be able to be together again.”

He also noted that he is becoming busier responding to a growing number of people who are seeking ministry from St. Bartholomew. That growing desire has come as knowledge of how to protect people from the coronavirus has increased and more people have been vaccinated.

“We are coming back every week a little more and a little more,” Father Wadelton said. “It has not slowed down as far as people wanting ministry. Life is good.”

Randy Schneider was one of several archdiocesan seminarians to attend the chrism Mass.

The member of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County hopes one day to join Father Wadelton in priestly ministry. He is a freshman at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and at Marian University, both in Indianapolis.

“The way that we’ve pulled through this past year is encouraging to me,” Schneider said. “We’re still working on getting everyone to go back to Mass and be able to receive the sacraments. It’s really important to me.”

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson reflected on the sacraments that are tied so closely to the oils he was about to bless.

“The blessing of the sacred oils represents the power of divine grace to heal, transform and send forth those who receive sacramental anointing,” he said.

The Church’s sacramental worship contributes to the healing of a society suffering and divided in so many ways, Archbishop Thompson noted.

“At the heart of this celebration is the very nature of the Church’s missionary impulse, as Pope Francis reminds us, calling forth each baptized member in authentic witness of holiness and mission,” he said.

In responding to this call, Archbishop Thompson said, Catholics should think more about others and their needs and less about themselves and their agendas.

“In doing so, as Pope Francis exhorts us in his October 2020 encyclical letter, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ we bear witness to the fruits of fraternity and social friendship,” Archbishop Thompson said. “How important this witness is in such a fractured, divided world. Amid the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, social unrest and political polarization, this witness is as essential as ever for the soul of Church and state.”

Archbishop Thompson went on to say that keeping Jesus Christ at the center of that witness is essential to making it effective.

He is “the beginning and the end of all that we are about as disciples … and ministers of the Gospel. That is why we must always strive to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered.

“United in communion with God and one another as one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, we are equipped to go forth and transform the world rather than be transformed by the world,” Archbishop Thompson said. “This is the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ in bringing about the Kingdom of God.

“All for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.” †

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